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The Boston Globe

Business

UMass Memorial Medical cutting more than 100 jobs

Umass Memorial Medical Center.

UMass Memorial Medical Center.

UMass Memorial Medical Center will shed more than 100 full-time jobs, including 55 nursing positions on two Worcester campuses, in the latest restructuring move at the largest employer in Central Massachusetts, the hospital said Wednesday.

The restructuring will include the closing of a medical floor and three of 17 operating rooms at the system’s Memorial hospital campus near downtown Worcester, the downsizing of a pediatric intensive care unit and other pediatric services at the system’s University campus adjacent to the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and the elimination of intravenous therapy teams on both campuses. Some of the moves began last month, the hospital said.

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Patrick Muldoon, president of the Worcester hospital, attributed the move to cutbacks in reimbursements from government and commercial payers and a decline in patient volume as health care providers work to keep people healthy and reduce hospital readmissions.

“This volume is gone, and it’s not coming back any time soon,” Muldoon said. “It doesn’t take much to start accumulating losses when your volume is falling off. This is the most difficult thing I have to do as a health care leader. But this is what we have to deal with going forward.”

Between job cuts begun in March and those disclosed Wednesday, hospital officials said they were eliminating 103 full-time equivalent positions, including 55 full-time equivalent nurses.

Officials from the Massachusetts Nurses Association, who were briefed on the Worcester hospital’s plans Wednesday morning, said they were told a total of 179 full-time and part-time jobs were being eliminated, including 81 full-time and part-time nursing jobs.

“We’re heartbroken,” said Colleen Wolfe, a registered nurse at the Memorial campus who co-chairs the nurses union’s bargaining committee. “Patients are suffering the consequences of 10 years of gross mismanagement. Now they’re dismantling a medical floor where people are taking care of elderly patients with complex medical needs. It’s really tragic.”

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The move comes as hospitals across the state feel financial strains from cuts to federal health insurance programs and reimbursement plans that slash payments for certain services. North Adams Regional Hospital last month closed its doors in northern Berkshire County, and several other Massachusetts hospitals have been posting lower income or financial losses.

In some ways, the stresses may be a sign that health care providers are having some success in promoting wellness and keeping patients out of the hospital, said John McDonough, professor of health policy and management at the Harvard School of Public Health.

“If hospitals are feeling the need to trim because there are fewer people who are getting unnecessarily readmitted, it’s not a bad thing,” McDonough said. “It’s an uncomfortable readjustment, but it’s a necessary thing if we’re going to reduce health care costs.”

UMass Memorial Health Care, the parent health care system that owns the Worcester hospital as well as affiliates in Leominster, Fitchburg, Clinton, and Marlborough, has 13,200 employees, including more than 9,000 at four UMass Memorial Medical Center sites. The system registered an operating loss of $55 million in its 2013 fiscal year, including $35.2 million at the Worcester flagship institution. The financial losses continued into the first quarter of fiscal 2014.

The big hospital system has previously eliminated hundreds of jobs and taken a series of streamlining steps in recent years. From October to February, it pared 285 full-time equivalent positions. It has also put a medical office building up for sale and has agreed to transfer ownership of its 74-bed Wing Memorial Hospital in Palmer to Baystate Health in Springfield.

Muldoon said the restructuring is likely to continue. He said that at a Wednesday meeting he told managers, “I know in your hearts you want me to tell you it’s over. But I can’t tell you that.”

Given the deteriorating business environment, Muldoon said, hospital leaders will be examining their four-campus footprint in Worcester, which included full-service health care and emergency services at the University and Memorial campuses, an outpatient facility at the Hahnemann campus, and an inpatient mental health unit on Queen Street.

While there are no current plans to close any of the sites, he said, “We are looking at all our options. We can never say never.”

Robert Weisman can be reached at robert.weisman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeRobW.

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